Contaminated Blood Products

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 11:00 am on 9th September 2015.

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Photo of Margaret Ritchie Margaret Ritchie Social Democratic and Labour Party, South Down 11:00 am, 9th September 2015

My hon. Friend has captured the anxiety and trauma of those affected and the need for Government compassion on this issue.

I will encapsulate the principal points. We need to know the commencement date of the consultation. It was supposed to be in autumn; we are now in autumn and we have not heard anything since the announcement on 17 July. We need the Government to detail how the £25 million will be spent and whether the various trusts will be dissolved and a lump sum made available. We need to know whether the Government will acknowledge liability and provide ongoing payments for victims and for the families who have been left with nothing following the death of a family member who contracted a virus or viruses as a result of contaminated blood products.

I say again: victims feel strongly that compensation should come not from the Department’s principal budget but from the Government’s contingency fund. Victims must have access to proper medicine, and drugs are required to be prescribed at stage 1 of the illness, before the onset of stage 2, in order to prevent liver dysfunction.

The Minister said in a statement that the Penrose report,

“together with over 5,000 documents from the period 1970-85…have already been published by Government”,

and that the Government

“have also committed to releasing all additional documents from 1986-1995 late this summer.”

When is “late this summer”? When will the documents be released?

These people, who are suffering so terribly, require truth from the Government. My constituent went to the Royal Victoria hospital in Belfast for continual reviews and was told that he had to get another test. He said, “Why do I have to get another test? Everybody knows I was born a haemophiliac, along with my two brothers.” They said, “You have hepatitis C,” and he said, “How did that happen?” It was because of blood products that were imported from the United States. That was the first he knew of it, 20 years ago. Members can imagine the trauma he felt, and that of his wife, children and wider family. Those blood products have meant that he has to attend hospital on a weekly basis and is without a job. He cannot do what he wants to do most: care for and bring up his family.

For the sake of Brian and many, many others, I urge the Minister to ensure that an abrupt close is brought to this matter, that a date for the consultation is announced, that interim moneys are made available, that full and final compensation is made available out of the Government contingency fund, and that all these terrible injustices are rectified once and for all.